HOUSTON, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- Rising exports of steam coal may push U.S. exports of coal to a record high in 2012, according to a government report released on Tuesday.
U.S. coal exports are expected to reach 125 million tons this year, surpassing the old record of about 113 million tons set in 1981, said the report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Exports for the first half of 2012 reached almost 67 million tons, surpassing most annual export volumes dating back to 1949, the EIA noted.
U.S. coal exports averaged 56 million tons per year in the decade preceding 2011.
Total U.S. coal exports, including steam coal for power and metallurgical coal for making steel, stood at almost 13 million tons in June 2012, surpassing April's record-setting monthly amount by 200,000 tons.
Though the EIA does not expect U.S. coal exports to continue at the current pace due to the slowing global economy, it still thinks that annual exports could beat the 1981 record.
U.S. coal exports plummeted through the 1990s, bottoming out in 2002 at just under 40 million tons -- the lowest level since 1961. Following the recent recession, export growth has accelerated with consecutive post-2009 growth of more than 20 million tons per year, said the EIA.